Do I need a REALTOR® to purchase a home?

 

Realtor in a blue suit shows a young couple a property, couple entering through front door

While there are plenty of great resources available to help you narrow down what you’re looking for, and research the region or neighbourhood that may best suit your lifestyle, consider these benefits to hiring a real estate professional when buying your next home.

A REALTOR®1 will not only take the time to help you find the right property, but also assist you through the buying and closing process. By getting to know you they can make suggestions of similar properties in similar neighbourhoods that may be off your radar. They have their fingers on the pulse of communities across the region they cover. They will advise you through the offer process and once a bid is won, they can recommend trusted professionals to help you complete the transition. 

Here are some benefits to consider:

ACCESS TO A LARGE NETWORK: A licensed real estate agent will have access to more available properties than the general public. Through their professional databases and relationships with other agents, a realtor knows what properties are coming on the market before they are posted, and may have other clients, or colleagues with clients, who are preparing to sell a home that fits your criteria. Some homes are sold prior to being listed and others are only publicly listed for a very short time. You could miss out on your perfect home.

NEGOTIATING: A realtor is a professional negotiator, and it is part of their job to get you the best possible deal on a property. They have insights into the local market, and with access to important data, they have a deep understanding of property values in a particular area at a given point in time.

NAVIGATING THE TRANSACTION: A real estate agent is an expert in their field, and having an experienced professional on your side will take the stress out of the critical paperwork that is necessary when purchasing a home. A realtor will guide you through one of the most significant and important transactions of your life.

ACCESS TO OTHER PROFESSIONALS: It’s always helpful to have referrals from friends and family when hiring a professional. Just as you may be referred to an agent, your agent can refer others to you. Real estate professionals have access to a large network of home inspectors, appraisers, contractors, financial advisors and mortgage brokers, and movers, to name a few. When you hire experienced experts, you get what you want the first time while saving time and money.

Want to find a Royal LePage real estate agent in your area?


1The trademarks REALTOR®, REALTORS® and the REALTOR® logo are controlled by The Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) and identify real estate professionals who are members of CREA.

Tips for packing your kitchen ahead of a move

 

White bowls stacked in a cardboard packing box

Of all the rooms in your home, the kitchen might be the most daunting one to pack up. When it’s time to move, follow these four important steps to make packing your kitchen easy and stress-free!

  1. Get organized. Before you start packing mugs and bowls into boxes, take inventory of each cupboard and drawer in your kitchen. Use this opportunity to purge or donate any items you do not intend to take with you. Next, gather all the packing materials you will need, including packing paper or bubble wrap, strong tape, boxes in various sizes, and a marker.
  2. Set aside your essentials. You can’t leave everything to the last minute, so you’ll want to pack up the vast majority of your kitchen ahead of time and leave out only a few essential items to be used in the final days and weeks leading up to your move. Keep out one dish, bowl, mug, glass and set of cutlery per person, along with any small appliances used daily (i.e. a coffee maker). You may also need to hold back one multi-purpose pot or pan. On moving day, carefully pack all these items into one box and label it ‘essentials’.
  3. Pack it in. Place similar items together, and organize your kitchen contents by size and fragility. For example, all flat plates should be packed together with a few sheets of packing paper in between each one. The same goes for bowls. Remember, most of these items are heavy and breakable, so be sure to use strong boxes or bins with snap-tight lids, and fill in any empty space with extra paper or bubble wrap.

    Tips for boxing breakables:
    • Double-tape the bottom of any cardboard boxes to support heavy items. Place a dish towel or some scrunched up packing paper at the bottom of each box to provide extra support for heavy dishes.
    • Clearly label each box or bin, identifying not only the room it belongs to (kitchen), but also the contents of the box (pots and pans, mixing bowls, cutlery, etc.). You’ll be glad you did when you’re looking for your favourite coffee mug.
    • Use special glass dividers that can be inserted into packing boxes to transport your stemware safely.
    • Fill the empty space inside the boxes with dish towels and other linens in order to keep items from shifting and potentially getting damaged. They have to be packed anyway!
    • Wrap your entire cutlery tray in packing paper or a table cloth and place it flat inside a box.
    • Always wrap knives separately in paper or bubble wrap first and then in a  dish towel. Place them on their side inside the box – never pointing up. And, be sure to clearly label this box.

4. Reduce food waste.  Before you move, take stock of the contents of your fridge, freezer and pantry. In an effort to minimize waste, try to think of easy recipes you can make to use up as many of these items as possible. On the moving day, put the remaining items in a cooler with cold packs. These items should be packed last before you leave, and unpacked first when you get to your new place.

How to Get Rid of Ants in the Kitchen

If you’re having problems with an ant infestation in your kitchen, it’s important to deal with it as soon as possible. Ants can multiply extremely quickly and cause damage to your home in the process. Fortunately, they’re fairly easy to remove and seldom require you to hire pest control. Here’s how it’s done.

Find Where the Ants Are Coming From

The first step to getting rid of ants is finding their colony. Are the ants coming from outside, or worse, do they have a nest in your home? Take the time to observe them as they explore your kitchen, and follow them to the source.

If the ant nest is inside the house, it’s most likely located in wood damaged by dampness. Check the areas above and under the sink, look inside cabinets, behind appliances, and inspect the floor and skirting boards as well. Often, the nest will be surrounded by a small mound of fine wood shavings, which the ants have excavated while digging their galleries.

Eliminate the Ant Colony

Once you locate the ants’ nest, you can destroy the colony with a non-repellent insecticide. Using repellents at this point won’t do much good, as the ants will simply relocate someplace else. As an alternative to insecticide, you can sprinkle some boric acid powder over the nest.

If you haven’t found the nest, the best solution is to set up an ant bait. This method is helpful, especially if the ants are coming from outside, and you don’t see yourself spending days following them with a magnifying glass to find their nest. You can either use a store-bought, pre-made ant trap or make your own. The easiest homemade ant trap is a solution of water, sugar and borax. The ants will take the sugary bait to the colony, and once they eat it, the borax will wipe them out within a day or two.

Keep the Ants out for Good

Now that your kitchen is free of ants, you’ll want to keep it that way. So here are a few ways to make sure that these little pests won’t find their way back inside your home.

Seal the Entry Points

Ants typically come inside the house through small cracks and gaps around windows, pipes and wires. This is easily fixed with a bit of DIY, such as using caulk or gap filler.

Eliminate Moisture Sources

Ants are attracted to moisture, which is why it’s important to keep your kitchen as dry as possible. Avoid leaving dishes and pans to soak for too long, make sure that the garbage bags aren’t leaking, and if you have houseplants, avoid leaving water in the pot trays. You can also find ants coming in through the drains, so wipe the sink dry after use. Finally, remember to check under the sink for any damp spots and leaks and fix them if needed.

Use an Ant Repellent

You can make your kitchen unappealing to ants with the help of organic, homemade ant repellents. Cinnamon, peppermint oil, neem, citrus, eucalyptus oil, pepper and white vinegar are just some of the smells that ants absolutely detest. You can use them to coat entry points such as windows and doors, on baseboards, as well as under the sink and behind appliances. This way, the ants will think twice before visiting your home again.

Store Food Correctly

Apart from moisture, food is the main item that lures ants into your kitchen. These tiny pests love the same foods as you do but have a soft spot for sweets. So always keep your food stored in sealed, airtight containers or ziplock bags, especially if it’s items like sugar, candy, bread, biscuits, chips, cereal, nuts and seeds, and even pet food. If you have cooked food, cover it and put it in the fridge. Also, make sure that the cap on bottles of fizzy drinks, honey and syrup is tightly shut and wiped clean.

Keep Your Kitchen Tidy

Ants use scouts to look for new food sources. If your kitchen is kept spotless, the scouts will return to the colony empty-handed and are unlikely to bug you again. Take the time to sweep and mop the kitchen after each use, give the counters a good wipe, keep the lid on your garbage bin tightly shut, and take the trash out regularly. If you want to be extra vigilant, you can also use a half-and-half mix of water and vinegar to mop the floors. This will erase the pheromone trails used by scout ants and bring you one step closer to an ant-free home.

 
 

What Does a Home Warranty Cover?

 

A home warranty is a type of contractual agreement that covers the cost of repairing or replacing home systems and appliances. It is optional home coverage, yet it can spare you a lot of headaches, especially if you have older appliances and home systems that would cost a lot to fix.

In this guide, we’ll look at what is typically included in a home warranty and explain how it differs from a manufacturer’s warranty and homeowners insurance.

What is covered by a home warranty?

Let’s start by listing what is typically included in a home warranty coverage:

Home systems:

  • Internal plumbing
  • Internal electrical systems
  • Heating and cooling systems (including ductwork)
  • Smoke detectors and fire or burglar alarms
  • Central vacuum cleaners
  • Ceiling and attic fans

Appliances:

  • Refrigerators and ice makers
  • Built-in ovens and microwave ovens, ranges, cooktops
  • Clothes washers and dryers
  • Dishwashers
  • Exhaust fans and hoods (including kitchen fans and attic fans)
  • Garbage disposals

Apart from appliances and major home systems, home warranty companies also provide a list of add-ons, which can extend your coverage to include items and amenities such as:

  • Electronics (laptop, TV, computer, etc.)
  • External plumbing (including septic systems, sump pumps, well pumps and sewer lines)
  • Spas and pools
  • Rentals and guesthouses located on the property premise

The home warranty coverage is usually capped at a certain amount per appliance or system. If the cost of repairing it exceeds that amount, you can choose between having it replaced or paying the difference needed to fix it.

What Isn’t Covered by a Home Warranty?

Here are the main items left out of the home warranty coverage:

  • Any issues previously discovered by a home inspector
  • Problems that result from neglect or poor maintenance
  • Systems and appliances damaged as a result of incorrect use, incorrect installation or manufacturing flaws
  • Damage caused by pests such as termites and rats, or mold
  • Identifying and removing hazardous substances such as lead and asbestos
  • Solar panels
  • Fireplaces
  • Commercial appliances
  • Cosmetic damage

It’s worth pointing out that just because something seems like it would be covered by the home warranty doesn’t mean it will. For example, some providers may offer coverage for refrigerators but not for free-standing freezers. Or they may provide coverage for doorbells, but not if they’re part of an intercom system. So always read the small print carefully to ensure that the coverage fits your needs.

Despite the name, a home warranty will not include the structure of your dwelling. This means it will also exclude coverage for structural problems, windows, foundations, flooring, walls and roof. There is, however, an exception to this rule:

Home Warranties for New Constructions

In both the U.S. and Canada, builders can provide a home warranty covering new constructions for up to 10 years. The coverage is typically included in the home price, guarantees the quality of labor and materials used in the new building, and will cover potential problems with the roof, exterior walls, foundation and frames.

Depending on the company, a home warranty for new buildings can also include coverage for appliances and home systems such as plumbing, electrical and heating.

Home Warranty vs. Manufacturer’s Warranty

Both home appliances and systems come with a standard manufacturer’s warranty by default. Yet this type of coverage is drastically different from the one provided by a home warranty.

The main difference is that a manufacturer’s warranty will cover the cost of parts and labor needed to repair an appliance, but only as long as the damage is caused by a manufacturing fault. On the other hand, a home warranty will cover the cost of repairing damage that results from regular wear and tear.

Also, a manufacturer’s warranty is limited to new systems and appliances. Meanwhile, a home warranty will provide coverage for older items as well, even if they are outside the manufacturer’s warranty by several years.

Home Warranty vs. Homeowners Insurance

As a homeowner, you’re most likely wondering which is worth buying: a home warranty or home insurance? To better understand which one you’ll need, keep in mind that a home warranty protects your home systems and appliances and covers the cost of repairing or replacing them.

Homeowners insurance is more comprehensive in terms of coverage and will include not just your dwelling but also personal belongings such as furniture, living expenses in case the damage to your home makes it temporarily unlivable, and even liability protection.

Of course, nothing prevents you from getting both a home warranty and homeowners insurance. But if you’re still wavering between the two, it’s best to discuss this with a professional and find out which policy suits you best.

 
 

Renting with Pets: Dos and Don’ts

 

Pet ownership has increased drastically in the last couple of years, with more of us than ever before sharing our homes with various furry companions. However, when it comes to renting with pets, there are some definite dos and don’ts to be aware of. So let’s take a look.

DO Know Your Rights

Legislation on renting with pets varies across states and provinces, so this is the best place to start documenting yourself. For example, the Ontario Residential Tenancies Act prevents landlords from including a no-pets provision in the lease agreement. Landlords can, however, refuse tenants who have pets. In other Canadian provinces, as well as in the U.S., such decisions are left to the landlord’s discretion. The only exceptions are service dogs and emotional support animals, which can bypass no-pets rules given the fact that they are not actual pets.

In addition to no-pets clauses, you should also know your rights regarding pet rent and deposits. For example, pet rent is prohibited in Canada, but other pet fees are allowed. In the U.S., pet rent, deposits and fees are regulated by local laws, so make sure to check those in advance. Also, keep in mind that a landlord can never charge you any pet rent or deposit if you have a service animal or emotional support animal.

DON’T Hide Your Pet From Your Landlord

As tempting as it is, sneaking pets into a rental is never a good idea. If your lease has a strict no-pets clause, even something as seemingly inoffensive as a hamster can be considered a breach of contract. A good relationship with your landlord goes a long way, so it’s essential to start off on the right foot. And, who knows, if you need to relocate, they may even agree to write a letter of recommendation for your pet.

DO Prepare Your Pet’s Documents

Even if your landlord doesn’t ask for it, it’s a good idea to have your pet’s paperwork ready before signing the lease. Most states and provinces will require a pet license, which allows shelters and animal control officers to identify the pet if it gets lost or stolen. A pet license will also prove that your cat or dog is up to date with its rabies and distemper vaccinations, whether it’s been spayed or neutered, and whether the pet has a microchip. In some cases, you will also need to provide a certificate of veterinary inspection, an official document attesting that your pet has been inspected for diseases and is in good health.

DO Mind Your Neighbors

This applies to both neighbors as well as potential roommates. Nobody likes a dog that barks at odd hours night and day, and if you’ve only just moved in, this could cause problems later on. If neighbors complain about noise or other pet-related disturbances or damage, your landlord may present you with an eviction notice. To avoid that, try to talk to your neighbors and address any concerns as soon as they arise.

DON’T Leave Your Pet Alone for Long Periods

Unless you’re working from home, there’s a good chance your pet will spend many hours each day alone. And sadly, a lonely pet is a stressed pet and is more likely to cause damage to the property as a result.

Ideally, once you move into a new rental, try to spend a few days with your pet until it becomes familiar with their new home. Also, try to establish a daily routine, so your pet knows that it’s normal for you to be gone for a few hours. Go for long walks, spend as much time as you can playing with your pet, and make sure that it has plenty of food and water while you’re away.

DO Consider Pet-proofing

Pet proofing is the easiest way to reduce pet-related damage and ensure you’ll get your deposit back. Limiting your pet’s access to some rooms can help reduce damage to floors, walls and furniture. Removing carpets can help you stay on top of cleaning up pet hair. You can also put delicate items and appliances in closed cabinets, where pets can’t accidentally break them. Similarly, toys are a great way of distracting pets from chewing or scratching the furniture in your rental.

DON’T Ignore Cleanliness

Not all pet-related damage is the result of chewing or scratching. Sometimes, it can result from falling behind on tidying up after your pet. For example, urine stains or smells can be difficult to remove if they are unattended for too long. Also, pet hair can become an absolute nightmare once it starts building up on carpets and upholstery. But if you stay on top of regularly cleaning up after your pet, you will drastically reduce the risk of potential pet damage.

 

What Do Home Appraisers Look For?

home appraisal is an essential part of buying or selling a property and even applying for refinancing. But what do appraisers actually look for when they visit? In this guide, we’ll cover the main items on an appraiser’s checklist and how they can affect the value of a property.

The Home Appraiser’s Checklist

Broadly speaking, a home appraiser will check the size, function, and condition of the property. In addition to this, they will also factor in amenities and home improvements, as well as items not pertaining to the property itself, such as the local market. Here are the main items on their list:

Outside the Property

  • Age and size of the property
  • The condition the property is in compared to neighboring properties
  • The state of the foundation, windows and exterior walls
  • The age and condition of the roof, as well as gutters and downspouts
  • The driveway and off-street parking
  • The garage and the number of cars it can fit
  • Landscaping and how well it’s being maintained
  • Accessory Dwelling Units such as a separate guest house on the property premises
  • Outdoor amenities such as a swimming pool, a patio or porch, or a fire pit
  • Signs of pest and water damage
  • HVAC unit
  • Septic tank vs. sewer
  • Solar panels and outdoor energy-efficient improvements
  • Types of utilities used (gas, electricity, water) and whether they’re connected to a public provider

Inside the Property

  • The layout of the property, floor plan and gross building area
  • Number of rooms, bedrooms, bathrooms
  • Types of appliances
  • Fireplaces
  • Types of materials used for the floor, walls and trim, and the condition they’re in
  • The way the home is styled and whether the decor is new or dated
  • Home improvements and renovations
  • Signs of pest infestations, water damage and mold
  • The condition the attic and basement are in, and whether there’s a sump pump in the basement

Beyond Property Limits

  • Location: rural, urban or suburban
  • Zoning and whether property usage is compliant with local laws
  • The condition the neighboring properties, streets and alleyways are in
  • Whether the property is in a flood zone and how likely it is to be affected by natural hazards
  • Proximity to sites such as landfills or power plants, amenities such as schools and shops, as well as interstates and airports
  • Local market conditions, such as the number of properties sold in the area and whether prices are rising or dropping

Special Considerations for VAUSDA, and FHA Loans

If the loan for buying a home is backed by a governmental agency, an appraiser will also check that the property is compliant with health and safety regulations. For example, they will check that the roof, foundation, crawl spaces, appliances, electricity and heating units are functioning and in good condition. On top of this, they can also check that all bedrooms have easy access to the exterior for fire safety reasons, whether lead-based paint is present, and even if the stairways have a handrail.

What Can Affect a Home Appraisal?

All the items on an appraiser’s list will affect the appraised value, for better or for worse.

Things that can increase the appraised value

As a rule of thumb, any structural items and amenities that are functional and in good condition will increase the value of your home.

Appraisers will also give points for home improvements that add value to the property, such as recent renovations, energy-efficient appliances or outdoor amenities. The materials used are also factored in, with hardwood flooring and granite countertops ranking higher than laminate alternatives. Cleanliness will not affect the home’s value, yet it’s still a good idea to tidy up and declutter to give the appraiser better access to what they need to check.

Things that can decrease the appraised value

On the other hand, the items that will lower the appraised value can range from things you can improve to those you have no say in. For example, an appraiser can deduct points if the property is not being maintained, if the roof, walls and foundation present structural flaws, if the property has signs of mold, water damage and pest infestations, or the decor and appliances are a bit dated. Similarly, older homes are valued lower than newly-built houses because they generally require more maintenance and have higher upkeep costs.

How can the local area impact the appraised value?

What happens outside property limits is beyond your control yet can also have a significant chance of increasing or lowering its appraised value. For example, a home can be appraised for less if it’s in a declining market, lacks access to local amenities, or is within a FEMA flood zone. However, a property in a hot market, in a trendy neighborhood and close to schools or employers may even be appraised higher than the selling price.

 
 

How Can You Tell if it’s Time to Sell?

These tips will help you gauge the best time to re-enter the market

With spring around the corner, we are entering what is traditionally the best time of year for home sellers. As winter passes and the vibrancy of spring makes a reappearance, buyers tend to re- emerge as well. So how do you know if this the right time to sell? Here are few thoughts to help as you ponder:

Necessary Change Is your family outgrowing your current property? Or is it time to downsize after
your kids have grown and left the nest? The big question to ask is whether your home is still serving your needs. Maybe you are thinking of starting a home office and need more space, or you want something with less stairs as you plan to age in place. Improving your quality of life is a key reason to sell and relocate.

Market Status
The current state of the market in the Okanagan could make it an ideal time to sell. We have seen a robust market over the past couple years, with prices rising while interest rates remain
competitive. Some homes are still selling at near or even over the listing price. There will eventually be a correction, whether it is from rising interest rates or other government intervention. It may not be the only factor but taking advantage of current market conditions could be a strong motivation to sell.

Equity Utility
Make your equity work for you. If you have built up enough equity to pay off your current mortgage and make a 20% down payment on your next home, then selling could be feasible. Given the
market, you will want to make sure that you are situated to acquire your next home or chart a plan towards that eventuality. We can help you evaluate your current situation and move towards your goals.

 

 

13 Pet-Friendly House Plants

 

House plants are a fantastic way to liven up your home decor by adding a natural touch and a splash of color to any room. However, if you’re a pet owner, you’re probably aware that some plants are toxic to your furry friends. The good news is that there are plenty of safe options that look stunning. So, check out our top picks for pet-friendly house plants.

Calathea

All Calathea or prayer plant varieties are safe for cats and dogs. With their stunning range of leaf colors, sizes and patterns, we’re sure you’ll find one that suits your home decor. They grow best in medium light, high humidity and need filtered or distilled water to keep the leaves glossy and healthy.

African Violets

These flowering houseplants are an excellent choice for a pet-friendly home. To keep them happy, place them in bright indirect light and water them when the top inch of the soil feels dry to the touch. Then, throughout spring and summer, give them a bit of fertilizer twice a month to encourage abundant flowering.

Palms

Indoor palms can add a veritable touch of luxurious, tropical vibes to your home, and most of them are pet-friendly. Here are a few species that will get along with your pets: Parlour Palm, Areca Palm, Miniature Date Palm and the Ponytail Palm. Steer clear of the Sago Palm, though, as it is toxic to both cats and dogs.

Ferns

Like indoor palms, the vast majority of indoor ferns are safe for pets. Our top picks include Boston Fern, Maidenhair Fern and the Staghorn Fern. These plants thrive in indirect sun and high humidity and make an excellent addition to a bathroom with a window.

Moth Orchids

This may come as a bit of a surprise, but all varieties of Moth or Phalaenopsis Orchids are non-toxic to cats and dogs. The trick to keeping these plants happy is using the right potting soil. A mix of two-parts fir bark, one part perlite and one part sphagnum peat would be perfect for them.

Polka Dot Plant

If you’re looking for a plant that’s small, colorful, beginner-friendly and also non-toxic to pets, the Polka Dot Plant is the answer to your prayers. Keep it in a room with bright indirect light, water it regularly, and you’re all set. Bonus tip: cut the ends of the stems once a month to keep your Polka Dot Plant looking bushy.

Fittonia

Another houseplant that’s both low-maintenance and pet-friendly, Fittonia or the Nerve Plant, stands out due to its compact size and stunning range of leaf colors. This plant loves high humidity and bright indirect light and needs a good soak when the top inch of the soil feels dry to the touch.

Banana

When it comes to pet-friendly plants that also work as a dramatic centerpiece in your home, the Banana Plant has almost no competition. This exotic giant can easily grow to a height of 7 feet and will need plenty of sunlight, humidity and well-draining soil to reach its full potential.

Spider Plant

An oldie but a goldie, the Spider Plant ticks the boxes for being both pet-friendly and beginner-friendly. Easy to grow indoors, it’s also a great plant to have around due to its air-purifying abilities. As far as we’re concerned, this one is an all-around winner and must-have plant for any home.

Air Plants

Not only are Air Plants non-toxic to cats and dogs, but they also spare you the headache of having to clean up if your pets knock the pots over. That’s right: Air Plants, or Tillandsia, don’t need any soil to grow. Instead, you can either mount them on a wooden display or keep them in an open glass container. To water them, simply dunk them in water once a week, for about 30 minutes. Plant care doesn’t get easier than this!

Peperomia

Peperomia or Rubber Plants are another fantastic choice for a pet-friendly home. The secret to keeping them healthy is bright but indirect sunlight and only watering them when the top two inches of the soil feel dry to the touch.

Hoya

Also known as Wax Plants or Porcelain Flowers, these slow-growing, trailing succulents are safe to grow in a home with cats or dogs. They also produce clusters of small, colorful flowers with delicate chocolate, vanilla, or cinnamon scent. Plant them in a mix of two-parts orchid bark, one part perlite and one part peat, keep them in bright indirect light and water them moderately.

Succulents

Although most pet owners would be wary of having spiky succulents around their cats and dogs, there are many spike-free species you can bring into your home. Blue Echeveria, Buro’s Tail, Opuntia, Christmas Cactus and the Fishbone Cactus are just some of our pet-friendly picks. Or, if you don’t mind something a bit prickly, the Blue Haworthia is another excellent choice.

 

Everything You Need to Know about Asbestos in the Home

The thought of having asbestos in the home can worry anyone. But is it as bad as it’s made out to be? Before you panic, it’s worth knowing a little more. So with that in mind, read on to find out what it is, how to identify it, and if you should be worried about it or not.
 

What Is Asbestos?

Asbestos is a naturally-occurring mineral made out of thin, hair-like fibers. It has been used as a building material for millennia, primarily due to its fireproofing and insulating abilities. Asbestos began enjoying increased popularity starting with the late 19th century, when its use became ubiquitous, from bricks and concrete to fireproof insulation, drywall and flooring.

As medical research began to highlight the health dangers associated with asbestos, this material began to gradually decline in popularity. Some of the health concerns included an increased risk of lung, stomach, ovarian and kidney cancer, as well as other respiratory and gastrointestinal illnesses.

Today, the use of asbestos is banned in 66 countries. Canada made it illegal to import, manufacture, sell and use asbestos products on 31 December 2018. In the U.S., the Environmental Protection Agency issued an asbestos ban in 1989, but the ban was overturned two years later. Although the use of asbestos in homes has declined after 1980, this material is still not completely illegal in the U.S.

Which Household Products Contain Asbestos?

If your home was built between 1920 and 1989, there’s a high chance that you can find asbestos in paint, plaster, pipe and wall insulation, drywall, vinyl flooring and linoleum, caulking, roof shingles and corrugated panels.

Asbestos could also be found in appliances such as heaters, ovens and stoves, dishwashers, fridges, and even toasters. In such cases, asbestos was used to insulate heating elements and electrical components. You can also find asbestos in old cars, in parts such as brakes, clutches, gaskets and hood liners.

Traces of asbestos contamination have been found in products that contain talc, from baby powder, children’s toys and crayons, to adult cosmetics. In addition, vermiculite, a mineral used in construction as well as a soil amendment for indoor plants, can also become contaminated with asbestos.

Identifying Asbestos

Identifying asbestos in your home can be tricky because it has no smell or taste, and its color and texture can change depending on what materials it has been mixed with. Also, it can be found in a wide range of items, from construction materials to household appliances. Of course, some items such as popcorn or stucco ceilings are a common giveaway for asbestos use. Most of the time, however, it’s almost impossible to identify asbestos just by looking at it.

If you’re worried that your home may contain asbestos, the best solution is to contact a licensed testing and removal professional. They will be able to identify asbestos in construction materials and other household items and advise if they pose a threat.

Should You Worry If Your Home Has Asbestos?

Asbestos has a long and well-researched history of negative health effects. So, to put it shortly, yes, asbestos is dangerous. Breathing in or ingesting asbestos can result in serious illness, and although patients can live with asbestosis for years, the damage done to the lungs cannot be reversed.

However, just because you live in a home with asbestos doesn’t mean your health is immediately put at risk. In this regard, asbestos is very similar to lead paint. As long as the material is in good condition, without any signs of damage, asbestos is not hazardous. In fact, if you do find undamaged asbestos in your home, the best thing you can do is simply leave it alone.

On the other hand, damaged asbestos can release microscopic fibers into the air, which do present a health hazard. Therefore, if you have items in your home that you either know or suspect contain asbestos, check them regularly. Signs of damage include cracks, tears, abrasions and water damage. Once you find a damaged item or area, do not touch it and contact a professional as soon as possible.

Removing Asbestos From Your Home

Removing or repairing damaged asbestos in your home is not a job you should do yourself. If the damaged surface is disturbed, it’s very easy to breathe in the microscopic particles, and even brief exposure to asbestos can have unpleasant health effects.

Asbestos removal should always be carried out by a certified contractor. Admittedly, there are no laws that prevent you from handling the removal yourself, yet the hazards associated with such a DIY project far outweigh any cost-cutting. Not only that but asbestos waste can only be disposed of in landfills designated explicitly for this purpose. Therefore, to save yourself the trouble and protect yourself from any health risks, it’s always best to leave the job to a professional.

 
 

What Is a Lien on a House?

 

Liens often have negative connotations for homeowners. Yet if you’re reading this article, you may be surprised to find out that you already have a lien on your home and that liens are not always as bad as they sound. Here’s what you need to know.

Understanding How Liens Work

A property lien is a legal claim against a property, allowing the creditor to use it as collateral to collect what they’re owed if the debtor cannot make payments.

Consider this common scenario to better understand how liens work: taking out a loan to finance a purchase. To secure loan repayments for the duration of the contract, the lender will use one of your assets as collateral. In most cases, the chosen asset will be your home. However, if you fail to repay the loan through some unfortunate circumstances, the lender can file a property lien on your home with the local county office. This gives them the legal right to force the sale of the property to recover the amount they’re being owed.

In the U.S and Canada, the most common property liens result from falling back on mortgage payments. Yet homeowners can also be faced with a lien if, for example, they fail to pay taxes and even bills of contractors working on their property.

Types of Liens

Property liens can be split into two main categories: consensual (or voluntary) and non-consensual (involuntary). Let’s take a closer look at each one.

Consensual or Voluntary Liens

As the name suggests, a consensual lien is one that you consent to. In the simplest of terms, any time you take out a loan, you voluntarily agree to have a consensual lien. Taking out a mortgage loan is the most common example, but liens can also occur when taking out a line of credit. In the case of a mortgage, your home is used to secure your obligation to pay for the newly acquired asset. And as long as you stay on top of the payments, you will retain ownership of the property.

Involuntary or Non-consensual Liens

Involuntary liens are any liens attached to your property without your consent. They result from local laws being enforced and can be put on a home by a lender, a tax authority or a legal judgment.

  • Mortgage lien: this lien may start as consensual, but if you default on your payments, the lender has the legal right to take possession of your home and sell it to recuperate losses. Out of all property lien types, this one is the most likely to result in foreclosure if you are more than 120 days overdue on payments.
  • Tax lien: if you fall behind on paying your property or income taxes, the state may put a tax lien on your home. As with overdue mortgage payments, the taxing authority can sell the property through a foreclosure to settle the debt.
  • Mechanic lien: this type of lien occurs if a mechanic or contractor is not paid for the work they performed on your property. In some cases, it can also occur if the contractor did not pay their supplier for the materials used for the work.
  • Judgment lien: occurs when a creditor wins a lawsuit against a debtor, and they become entitled to the funds resulting from the sale of the debtor’s property to settle the debt. It can result from loan nonpayments, but also in case of accidents and injuries where insurance is not enough to cover medical bills, for example.

Is It Bad to Have a Lien on Your House?

The short answer is: it depends. For example, consensual liens will be visible on your credit report, yet as long as you’re up to date with your payments, they do not damage your credit score. In fact, consensual liens can benefit your credit score, letting banks and lenders know that you are a trustworthy borrower.

Liens become problematic if they are the result of nonpayment. Keep in mind that your payment history makes up a significant part of your credit score, and late payments can deduct valuable points. In addition, tax, mechanic, and judgment liens will remain on your credit report for seven years, so it’s best to avoid them at all costs.

An involuntary lien can also make it difficult to sell your home. And, in a worst-case scenario, you can even risk losing your property altogether if it goes to a foreclosure auction.

Removing a Lien From Your House

The best way to remove a property lien is to pay off your underlying debt. Alternatively, you can also negotiate a partial payoff with the lienholder or, in the case of judgment liens, file a lien avoidance motion with the Supreme Court.